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University Hospitals fertility clinic faces new lawsuits after tank failures

More than 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos were ruined after a cryo tank malfunctioned in 2018.

Lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio, have announced eight new lawsuits against University Hospitals Fertility Center, as well as CAS DataLoggers. This is in addition to more than 70 lawsuits already filed against the hospital system for its role in a cryo tank malfunction that ruined more than 4,000 frozen eggs and embryos, lawyers said Thursday.

“The loss suffered by our clients is devastating,” said Adam Wolf, attorney with the law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr and Kane. “Those eggs and embryos represented the hopes of having children for hundreds of American families.” The Cleveland lawyers represent about 100 of the nearly 1,000 affected families.

It’s been nearly a year since the temperature rose in the storage tank at University Hospitals Fertility Center in Beachwood, Ohio. The incident on March 4, 2018 went undetected for a period of time because a remote alarm system — which should have alerted employees to temperature swings — had been turned off. University Hospitals Fertility Center later sent letters to nearly 1,000 affected patients apologizing for the massive malfunction. None of the eggs or embryos remained viable.

“We don’t know who turned off the remote alarm nor do we know how long it was off,” the letter stated. “We are still seeking those answers.”

The new lawsuits claim CAS DataLoggers, located in Chesterland, Ohio, was responsible for monitoring the remote alarm.

In a statement released Thursday, University Hospitals wrote that the fertility center had apologized to the affected patients and offered free fertility care since the March event.

"We have also made significant enhancements at the Fertility Center and we embrace and reinforce a culture that encourages our physicians, nurses, and staff to speak up when they see ways to further increase the quality of care we provide to patients," according to the statement.

“UH has worked with Fertility Center patients and their lawyers over the past year to negotiate a significant number of settlements and will continue offering resolution alternatives to our patients who want to avoid the time, expense, and anxiety of litigation."

Two couples who lost embryos in the malfunction attended a press conference in Cleveland with their lawyers on Thursday. Emily Petite said she and her husband, Matt, previously went through in-vitro fertilization and have a son. They were hoping for more children.

“We truly believed our embryos were in safe keeping,” said Petite, 31, of Lake County, Ohio.

There is a one year statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits in Ohio. That means patients affected by the tank malfunction at University Hospitals Fertility Center who wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must do so by the first week in March.

Another couple, Rick and Wendy Penniman, has filed a separate lawsuit against University Hospitals. The couple is seeking legal declaration that their lost embryos be considered living people, not property. If granted, the Pennimans could impact the type of lawsuit filed.